Egypt: New president must end torture

Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Programme Director Malcolm Smart said:

"Torture remains widespread and systematic, and security forces have been allowed over many years to act with virtual impunity. The new president should force through long-needed human rights reforms."

Torture is used against people from all walks of life in Egypt, including political prisoners and people arrested in connection with alleged "terrorism" cases.

Methods routinely used by security forces include beating, suspension by the wrists and ankles and electric shocks in sensitive parts of the body. Detainees are frequently kept naked and blindfolded while being interrogated and tortured.

Amnesty International has highlighted the case of four British men who allege that they were tortured after being detained and held in secret detention in 2002.

Three of the men - Ian Malcolm Nisbett, Maajid Nawaz and Reza Pankhurst - were sentenced last year to five years' imprisonment after unfair trials.

Their reports of torture have never been properly investigated.

Similarly, no thorough, prompt and impartial investigations have been conducted into the hundreds of complaints of torture and deaths in detention that have been filed in recent years.

Amnesty International believes that the impunity afforded to those responsible for torture and ill-treatment ultimately encourages such abuses.

Malcolm Smart added:

"Seeking an end to the systematic use of torture and breaking the spiral of impunity behind which the torturers have been able to hide should be a priority for the new president."

Amnesty International welcomes the recent establishment of a National Council for Human Rights and a parliamentary Committee for Human Rights.

These bodies should play a greater role in promoting respect for human rights in Egypt. The state of emergency, which has been in force since 1981, has largely contributed to restrictions of rights and freedoms in Egypt.

The Emergency Law gives wide executive powers to curtail freedom of expression, association and assembly and anyone considered "a threat to national security and public order" can be detained indefinitely without charge or trial.

Thousands of administrative detainees continue to be held under emergency legislation without charge or trial, sometimes for years.

Most of them are held in appalling conditions. A number of detainees have died in custody as a result of the denial of adequate medical care.

Malcolm Smart said:

"Emergency regulations facilitate torture and other human rights violations that can never be permissible under international law. The new president must repeal these regulations or bring them into line with internationally accepted standards."

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